“Touch of Computational Birth” is an artistic research project I am working on with artist-researcher Alexandra Jonsson, PhD candidate at Westminster University. NHS Healthcare reform policies in the UK, such as “Leading Change – Adding Value” (May 2016) show that healthcare is being remodelled according to measurable metrics, which relies on data produced by expecting mothers, new born babies and working midwifes. This project sets out to explore questions as: who harvests the value of these datasets? How are they used outside of direct care, and who is it that benefits?
How can we use art practice and making to analyse and respond to the values and new functions introduced onto the body with current data systems and healthcare reform models in operation. This includes looking at how the role of data collection, monitoring and policy and management structures have changed the routines and practices of midwifery and their relation to expecting mothers. The aim is to study the changes that digital technologies introduce both for the pregnant body, the experience of childbirth and the practice of midwifery. We use art as a tactile and visual way for ourselves, expecting mothers and healthcare practitioners to critically reflect, evaluate and gain a deeper understanding of the processes and relationships produced by digital birth technologies.
In our first collaboration sprint in May 2017 we have interviewed midwives, explored data collection, and database structures, the encoding of birth and corresponding management systems and financial pathways and utilized various mapping techniques, life drawing and DIY printing techniques to provide entries of understanding into these systems. This project is ongoing, more updates will follow soon.